Boston (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick, leading off a casino gambling hearing that lured Las Vegas chief executives to Beacon Hill, testified Tuesday that lawmakers shouldn’t moralize against casino gambling.
The Democratic governor pushed his three-casino legislation as a way to create new revenues and jobs at a time when Massachusetts needs both. He said Massachusetts residents currently spend USD 1 billion annually at Connecticut’s two casinos.
Patrick said his late mother gambled at casinos, and senior citizens and other adults “have been making their own decisions about what’s best for them for a very long while.”
“They do not need the state to tell them how they should or shouldn’t spend their entertainment dollars,” he said.
Patrick said his plan would dedicate some revenue to addressing negative effects of the casinos, including gambling addictions and crime. Patrick said three casinos would generate $ 400 million dollars in annual tax revenue and 20,000 new jobs.
The hearing had a pro-casino flavor, as it was called by Rep. David Flynn, a Bridgewater Democrat who supports expanding gambling.
Union activists packed the Gardner Auditorium with supporters wearing red T-shirts with pro-casino messages — so much so that they left no seat for billionaire Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, who wants to build a casino in the Marlborough area.
Eventually, a metal chair was placed along the front row for the 74-year-old Adelson, who uses a cane to walk.
Adelson was scheduled to testify later Tuesday, as was Gary Loveman, chief executive of Harrah’s Entertainment.
House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi opposes an expansion of gambling. He says the full House won’t consider the governor’s measure until next year.
Sen. Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat and co-chairman of the legislative panel that held the hearing, described himself as a “skeptic” of casino gambling. He called for an independent analysis of Patrick’s revenue estimates.
“We are doing that right now and I welcome that,” Patrick said.
Montigny interrupted: “We and independent, that’s a bit of an oxymoron.”
The governor said he would welcome other outside analyses.